Surhat

Healthy and General

Gaming apps for seniors: At 82, she created a game she could

7 min read

Wakamiya Masako began using computers before she retired from her bank management job in 1997 in hopes of socializing online while looking after her aging mother at home.

As she gained computer literacy, she felt her life was enriched socially and intellectually. But the deficit of online material for older people made her get creative: Using Excel spreadsheets, she saw patterns that she translated into art – designs for fabric and paper fans. She calls it “Excel art.” And she became a well-known advocate for computer literacy among older people, making speeches and writing books. 

Why We Wrote This

In our increasingly digital world, technology serves as a gateway to new skills and social opportunities. This octogenarian app developer is making sure fellow seniors aren’t left behind.

Then, in 2017, at the age of 82, Ms. Wakamiya wanted a game app in which “seniors could beat young people.” And a high tech executive encouraged her to do it herself: She learned to code and launched Hinadan, a game featuring traditional Japanese dolls that users must move – puzzle-like – into positions according to roles. It has been released in five languages. 

Ms. Wakamiya says she’s realized that in Japan’s culture of perfectionism, many people are simply so afraid of failure they won’t try something new: “There are no such things as failures. To just start something new is deemed a success because you still learn in the process.” 

FUJISAWA, JAPAN

Even in this age of smartphones, octogenarian Wakamiya Masako feels older people in rapidly aging Japan are kept out of the tech loop. 

Retired from bank management for about 25 years, she has spent a lot of her time helping older friends and neighbors learn to use smartphones, and she’s developed the theory that they have a hard time because there aren’t games and apps aimed at their age group.  

One possible solution, she thought, was to create a gaming app to encourage and enchant older people into more comfort with their smartphones. 

Why We Wrote This

In our increasingly digital world, technology serves as a gateway to new skills and social opportunities. This octogenarian app developer is making sure fellow seniors aren’t left behind.

“My friends were very much looking forward to such an app and encouraged me,” says Ms. Wakamiya. 

So she got some help from an expert, and her idea has made her famous at home and abroad for being one of the oldest app developers in the world, lauded by Japanese leaders and global technology executives for transcending age barriers.